Discover the Galapagos!
You’ve probably already heard of the Galapagos Islands, this mysterious and unique archipelago…
Well, it can be reached by a 2-hour flight from the mainland (Quito or Guayaquil airports).
I was lucky enough to discover these islands for 2 weeks in February.
For your information, the archipelago is made up of 3 main inhabited islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal.
The animal kingdom
During this trip, I was amazed by everything I saw. The landscapes are multiple and exceptional. Each island is different and has its own particularity, with its own vegetation and fauna.
But I have to say that the most impressive thing about arriving on the islands is the sheer number of animals.
In fact, the name Galapagos comes from the shape of the giant tortoises‘ shells. These were the first species discovered by sailors when they arrived on the archipelago. They thought they looked like horse saddles: “galapago” in old Spanish. That’s how the name came about!
The animals have learned to live and cohabit peacefully with humans, and you can feel it. The archipelago is protected, and the local inhabitants and guides make a point of respecting the fauna.
You’ll come across marine and terrestrial iguanas that make themselves comfortable right in the middle of your path, sea lions that are sometimes reluctant to let you pass, a school of rays and sea turtles that follow your boat, and all kinds of seabirds. You might even spot some penguins!
Of course, in order to observe the more shy endemic animals, there are plenty of activities to do, such as snorkeling, boat trips, walking, diving or simply lounging on the beach!
This can be done by staying on the inhabited islands, or by going further afield by boat…
It’s worth noting that the Galapagos Natural Park decides and regulates the days when boats can visit the uninhabited islands. This adds a unique character to the islands, as there are very few visitors.
My TOP 5 activities
To find out a little more, here are my top 5 activities to do once on the islands!
This excursion starts from Isabela Island. You’ll spend half a day discovering marine animals. The water is shallow, as the snorkeling takes place in the lava tunnels of Cabo Rosa. I came across sea turtles, seahorses, white-tip sharks (which I couldn’t have seen without the help of our guide!) and many more.
Santa Fé Island
Visiting an uninhabited island is a truly unique experience. There are several of them, and the choice is as varied as the landscapes. I really liked Santa Fé, as it’s just as colorful as any other island paradise. The weather was superb, allowing the blue of the water to contrast with the white of the sand. Santa Fé’s white iguanas can be seen here. Snorkeling is also a pure delight.
Parte Alta Reserve on Santa Cruz
Because the Galapagos is also, and above all, about giant tortoises! Here, you can observe them in a private reserve where they roam freely. It’s also the perfect place to take a souvenir photo.
Tortuga Bay beach is accessible from Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) and is a must! It’s ideal for a little idleness during your trip. Once again, the colors are magnificent, with calm water in several shades of blue and smooth white sand. A few marine iguanas can be seen swimming here too. And as this beach has to be earned, you have to walk half an hour to get there.
This is another uninhabited island that can be visited by the day. It’s totally different from its neighbors, with a very arid landscape and little wildlife. It’s almost like being in a desert! The highlight of this excursion is the superb view from the mirador, which you reach after climbing some 400 wooden steps.
Bonus: an experience that made me laugh out loud
The Puerto Ayora fish market in Santa Cruz.
There are some pretty funny scenes. You can see the fishermen working on the day’s catch, with sea lions and seabirds waiting at their feet to enjoy it. It’s almost like an open theater scene, with the cormorants fighting with the little sea lions for the right to their piece of fish! It’s a very funny moment, as the fishermen play it out for the amusement of passers-by. It’s even livelier in the evening, at dinnertime!
The Galapagos is a trip like few others in a lifetime. It’s one of the few places that is still truly protected, which gives it an exceptional character. Far from mass tourism with no regard for the environment.
In conclusion, if you’re ever in Ecuador, I strongly recommend that you set aside at least 5 days to discover the beauty of these islands.